Thursday, June 30, 2011

thinking and planning . . .

This year is our first attempt at making our own hay.  The open pasture, about 8 or so acres, is full of timothy grass, red clover, and of course some big WEEDS.  My thinking, cut it, store it, feed it to the animals and they will sort out what they don't want.  I asked a neighbor farmer to cut it for me and today we are going to put it up in the barn.  Hopefully he'll get to cutting the rest of it fairly soon.
 Another bulding project I am working on are the garden pergolas.  The pergola is going to be used for grapes to grow on, and provide some shade when we are out in the garden area.  This is the first of two that will be covering the junction of the Gator path.
 Since I have built many things using traditional nails and screws, I wanted to challenge myself with joinery on this project.  I decided that I wanted to try the old method of fastening wood together with dowels like the barns were built years ago.  It took a little bit of thinking and planning and I had to take the whole structure apart once to redo the posts, but there is not ONE piece of hardware holding it together.  It is esssentially a large jigsaw puzzle that can be dismantled and moved if needed.  Since it is free standing, it is a little wobbly so I am going to come up with a plan to make it a little more stable.
And then our garden grows.  The mounds I am using for the potatoes seem to be working so far.  That is the green leaf ABOVE the ground looks good.  In the fall we'll see if the food that is UNDER the mound turns out.  I sure hope so.  :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

enjoyable work . . .

Now that summer holiday has started, I feel like a child in a candy store.  So many things to look at, wanting so many things, and RUNNING around to make sure to soak up all the store has to offer.  The difference between the child in the candy store and me is that I am not in a candy store, and I am not looking for candy.  But all the same, on the farm, I am "keyed up" like a child with farm maintenance to do, building projects, and highly motivated to WORK.

Work.  I like the verb part of speech of this word. to do work; labor. As well as to be in operation, as a machine. I can hardly call what I do here on our farm work.  Sure, it is labor, sure it does expend energy, sure it is a whole bunch of tiring tasks.  However, when you want something done, and like doing it, it is hard to call it work.  That is what it is like here for me.  A whole lot of ENJOYAB:E work to be done.

Recently we have been getting coffee grounds from one of the coffee shops in town.  I approached them a month or so ago with the idea of having them save all the coffee grounds for us to use here on the farm.  It truly is a win/win situation.  Every two days we get a 5 gallon bucket full of grounds to amend our soil.  In return, they don't have the wet, heavy mess in their trash cans at the shop.  When we get it home we dump it, let it dry, take the filters out, and then mix it with manure for one of our composting methods.

 I also bought a chipper/shredder the other day from a friend.  Nolan and I turned an old stick pile into mulch and are now using the wood chips to mulch around the newly planted fruit trees and raspberry bushes.  This year we planted 6 new fruit trees and 25 raspberry canes.
 On the area where we chipped up all the wood I created an experimental garden.  Here I layed potatoes on the furtile ground and coverd them with some old, wet straw.  I am not going to water them at ALL and see if I get a yeild from it.  It is also right on the edge of the woods.  I'll see how that works out!
 I recently collected and recycled some wood pallets as our main compost bins.  They are not the best ways of composting fro sure, but it is a start for us.  I have been putting our manures in them as well as the grass we collect from the neighbor mowing his 4 acre lawn.  His grass and our animal manure is making us a black, earthy soil amending compound that is going to change our food from good, to GREAT!
 I added another fence to the orchard/garden area and to have a place for the raspberries to grow.  Ildi likes rows and columns. The compromise for me was to have them on a fence IF they had to be put in rows.  The garden is in rows this year as well just to make it easier to work with all the other changes/work we have to do here.  But next year . . . it is going to change!  Nature likes curves.  And nature likes edge.  I am in the process of thinking about how I want to move away from the traditional gardening methods of plants put in rows to the way nature causes things just to be "planted."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

creating together . . .

Homesteading requires a bit of ingenuity.  Ingenuity that includes everyone's ideas and help.  When you want to do things around a farm, and you have no BIG equipment to work with, it definitely takes great ideas.  This idea that we came up with today is going to be logged in as our GREAT idea for this summer's garden row making work.

It all started with the "different" plan to not till the garden.  A permaculture thing.  We needed to create some beds to plant in and to direct sow some of the seeds for this year's garden.  And with the garden made mostly of clay, and chock full of weeds, we had a big job ahead of us.  A few times the thought of just tilling it up again seemed like the best thing to do.  Instead, we went on with our plan to leave the soil as is so it can begin to heal and to become a fertile place to plant.

The garden was first mowed really low, then we brought in a layer of composted manure and then some sifted dirt on top of that.  We used a screen I made last year for composting, and added a support structure/row making tool to it.  After we shoveled in a layer of compost, we went to the barn pasture to get some of the dirt out of a mound that a friend dropped off last year.
 Shoveling rock filled dirt into the handmade sifter
 Sifting the dirt to get the big rocks out
 Dumping the rocks into a pile for a later project
Then part of the sifting tool is multi-tasking as a row making sled (something I might have to patent)
   Dirt is filled in
 And the Gator pulls it to make an exact 24" row complete with leveling it off
 The row to the right was our attempt at making a row without our new homestead tool.

Today we got three rows done relatively easily and we were all happy that our new multi-tool worked so well.  During the loading of the compost and the dirt, the children and I talked about what was and was not working with our new equipment.  And after each dirt load, we dropped by the wood shop and I made minor adjustments to the row maker having it work even better than the time before.  Thanks to all the valuable input.

Since our efforts were a success, we all had FUN shoveling compost and dirt because we were thinking, laughing, and spending some great time CREATING together.